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A Filipina on Vlieland

Laying on my back at the bottom of the bunk bed, I watched the upper bed through my slightly opened eyelids. I was slowly returning from a dream, awakened by a soothing, serene sound. Tiny droplets fell with the thousands onto the canvas of the tent-house causing a choir of acoustic plops throughout the entire place. Most shivered at the thought of a rainy day on their one week away, however, the peace had been a party for the two of us. On these days, we’d slam open a book, sip some delightful herb-bitter and warm our feet with the little heater. With a smile, granted by the absence of work, I rolled to my side and leaned over the sleeping beauty. As I moved, the blanket descended off my shoulder into my lap and along with it, the warmth absconded and in lieu the cold transported over the island by the fierce wind had taken over. A wind all the while brushing and sporadically banging with increased force against the sides of the hut. Despite the accommodation’s main build being a thick tarpaulin, which made the hits of the wind echo at high amplitude, it seldom struck us with fright. In a way, it brought comfort. I used one hand to move away some of the hair fallen into my lover’s face and with a freed ear, I whispered her awake and into the start of our day.

Manoeuvring myself out of bed, I placed my feet on the wooden floor and bent forward to avoid bumping my head as I got up. In my near birthday suit, I shuffled out of the bedroom and into the parlor well-lit by the sun some hours into its day of work. The planks underneath my feet were coarse as it had a texture of sprinkles of sand. However, it fit well with the setting and as all did on this island, it brought out another piece in a world of nostalgia. In this tent-house, though it grows bigger with the years, many memories of mine rest as the family would take off from home and remain a fortnight here. In illness and joy I have wasted away hours on this island. Surfing down the dune of marram grass, gaining speed with each slide as the flattened grass blades would become smoother, before taking a dive head first into a bunch resulting in one of the blades stinging into one’s eyes. Then bawl for a split second before jumping on the board again to redo the whole stunt. Making friends solely for the durations of the stay without knowing when the last time will be. Munching pizza’s at the nearby restaurant, getting sand in every hole and pocket at the windy beach, poking the pink, slimy jelly-fish and simply doing what kid’s do. Standing in front of the door leading to the porch, I viewed the path of sand leading downhill and reminisced the time I had dug a hole with as only purpose to make a trap by covering it with a lid of green. The innocence of the child had not taken into account the chances of major injury and was simply out for laughs and giggles.

Soon, my love would join me and we’d sit for a breakfast to start the day. From the camping’s store, we had bought a carton set of mini toppings. This included minuscule portions of jams, sprinkles, peanut butter and chocolate paste. To compromise for the healthier, along with it came sliced cheese and bits of ham. But in honesty, our life on the island was far from the healthiest. Before noon had hit, a can of cold beer was popped open and so was a lazy chair in the warming heat of the sun. Long, sauntering walks on the cold, windy beach would be enlightened by the warmth of the liquor herb-bitter as we splashed our bare feet in the absolute freezing water. Peculiarly on a hosing day such as today, one finds a quick excuse to seek the better end of a bottle as the body wishes to flee from the biting cold. Besides, who plays Yahtzee sober? As I pondered when it would be acceptable to suggest a drink, she poured me a cup of tea and looked stunning as ever while doing so. The advantage of a make-up-less girlfriend is the akin beauty in the morning being indistinguishable from her last night’s glow. It felt special to take her away to a place of peace and comfort that for the kid of me had always been a getaway.

And befittingly, a day before we had walked the footsteps of young me as we got onto the massive jeep racing us over the beach towards the Sahara of the North, accompanied by a jolly man singing his ballads on an accordion. With a bit of luck, the day had been dry and all that poured was the sand carried like clouds by the wind forced up as the grand vehicle pushed with speed over the sand. The insides got soon filled with sand and that included the pockets of my jacket, out of which I could fish grains of it even weeks after. Parents covered their children securely as the sand was cutting and whirled around into the eyes of some. Which was a pity, as the sights were pleasant to admire. Passing by a military base for target practise of jets, we headed towards the refuge of shipwreck victims turned into a beachcomber museum. Now, it bears all found on the long strip of sand, including bits of sunken containers’s cargo that flowed ashore years ago and all else that came with shipwrecks. Inside stood dozens of jars filled with water and sea creatures resembling the serial killer’s cabin in a horror movie. After the jester’s tour of the shed was finished, as group we traversed to the far end of the island from where people admired the neighbouring island and equipped with binoculars viewed the bathing seals.

Though not all we did was pertaining my childhood and past activities. Bringing my present and future to the past and guiding her through an island of memories, it made more than sense to create new ones and on rented bicycles we did. Traversing for surprisingly long as my child’s eyes had only remembered the island for as far as my trembling legs carried me, we peddled a distance with a map as guide to both far ends of the island. A haven of nature with plants, shrubs and flowers beaming with colour, whistling birds and gallantly galloping wild deer in a bunch. Seeing a side I hadn’t seen or recalled, I was cordially shocked. As treat for our inputs, we entered a homey restaurant and indulged in a lovely pie along with cups of tea. And though the day ended in a soaking splash as the sky tore open with buckets and buckets pouring down, it was a day of peaceful bliss.

It was hard for the travellers to not wander about and with the beauties of the island it is understandable. However the days we didn’t, beginning the day calm and loitering around the tarpaulin-cabin or ambling to the shop for fresh croissants, we embraced the lack of sound. The camping was shared with only few others due to our perfect timing and with a job draining me with the passing of days, we welcomed rainy days and listened to the singing. We welcomed days of reading books and playing games. To be honest, for short-term, the opposite of hauling heavy backpacks through humid Asian heat before embarking on the nth vehicle for a duration in the double digits to do it all over again and an off-day including an hours-long hike in the jungle, it was great. With the only downside being a beach demanding layers and layers of clothing to be worn.

Where do you catch your breath? What is a safe haven, a place of comfort and serenity for you? For me, it’s not always a place with literal quietness.

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Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

All must come to an end

Coming back from Cresta, we had been bedazzled by its beauty, but we knew with it, our trip was to come to an end. Our last day had arrived and dazed by the heat, we thought the Cantingas river to be best for letting the final hours pass before a needed night’s rest. The river was so clear, that it was hard to believe to be exactly that. Its water had enough cool to wash away weeks of unabated sun’s fury and with a lovely view all we needed. Many Filipinos had gathered here, as usual eating and drinking the local whiskey, and my pale skin seemed to stick out. Their eyes had lingered and glared at us resulting in a few initiating small-talks. Others would simply stare and wave. For a slight bit of privacy, we had gone downstream to bathe and savour our final moments while we could as the sun sank down out of sight.

Categories
South-East Asia (2017-2018)

The Pearl; Cresta de Gallo

Cresta de Gallo, a name alone so charming it propelled the idea of the entire trip. Upon further investigation of the tiny, captivating island, my love and I were enticed by its beauty. Having set our plan in motion, it also came as last due to its location. But finally, having hopped from island to island and so on, touring with a tight time-schedule, we had arrived on an early morning at the shore of departure. Going from the nearest land Sibuyan, we headed to the dot in a minuscule boat. A boat that remarkably took us there unscathed through the boisterous waves. I had not figured it would take us out that far, as it is the smaller version of a bangka, which might explain why the way there took unexpectedly long.

Neither of us minded the long haul however, since we had come from far to visit this pearl. When we arrived, I had been surprised, near shocked, when I found that it was only us. Us, the two guys manning the boat and the care taker of the island – plus his moonstruck cousin. We had been told stories before by the locals of previous islands and from what we had heard, there used to be a couple on the island. They had lived there and been granted the island by the government. Yes, they actually owned the island, though it was under the condition that they would not sell it. Now that they had grown old, they had moved and their family would upkeep the place. After a welcome, we began to wander around. The entire island was vacated, the most breathtaking combination of beach and sea I had ever seen and we had it all to ourselves for as long as we wished it to be.

Accompanied by a dozen starving dogs, we could not help but have mixed feelings about the gorgeous place. No matter how bewitching it is, there is little crueller than to keep dogs on an island that bears little to nothing and to then treat them poorly. As a small consolation, we fed them most of our snacks before venturing around the island. One dog of the bunch had decided he wanted more of the peanut-butter crackers and had separated himself from the pack to join us. We wanted to experience as much as we could, as well as bring home a picture captivating enough to draw envy from those back home. Thus, with a little canine sauntering behind us, we filmed and photographed the beauty spots, meandered the perfect white sand, soaked up the sun fierce-fully blazing us on this blessed day and went for a dip into the refreshingly cool and blue water.

Hours had passed and it felt like an endless experience no one could take from us. Though these hours could fill many pages of enticing reasons what makes this islands a paradise, as the evening grows late, I will keep it short and simply let the pictures tell my tale. When enough time had spent burning to a crisp, we had decided to unhurried return to land and say bye to the paradise and the adorable puppers on it. We left bewitched and in amour. Would we ever return, it would be bearing dog treats and a tent.

Categories
South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A Roaring Ride on Romblon

As the boat docked, vendors as well as human mules awaited from shore, readily prepared to sell their goods or services. The air was thick and humid, and both of us longed for a long shower. We had just arrived at our third island of the journey. Waving away the thought of another plane, we had taken about every mode of transport there was in the Philippines commencing from Imus, Cavite to get via Mindoro into the Romblon waters. Today, we had embarked the ferry from Tablas to Romblon, the marble capital of the Philippines. Tablas had quadruple the size, yet none the appeal the tiny brother had. But since the sun had already gone down by the time we set foot on land, our fatigued heads had no means for exploration aside from tonight’s and tomorrow’s accommodation. Dashing the initial trike-drivers, avoiding the peak in charges, we wandered a bit before boarding a metal carriage that would take us around on this search. Neither of us being on the picky side, we had soon settled for a place and had taken that coveted wash.

On the next day, with no tours outgoing, afflicted by weather, the plan was to find our way around the island. As usual, the cheapest option being to rent a scooter. Due to the problem of our hotel requiring proof of license, -which both coincidentally forget to bring each and every trip -we had to rummage through the town on the hunt for the perfect, in tip-top condition bikes. At last, we had stumbled upon a hotel storing exactly what we sought for. My eyes widened in excitement, watching a powerful beast, but before I managed to make my pick, the lady on my side had shook her head. She questioned my driving capabilities and was reluctant to get on the back had I gone for flashy and swift. Agreeing in fairness, we had gone for safe. The only, minor kink being that none of the indicators worked. But, all those pointers distract too much anyways, who truly needs to know how much gas is inside or the current speed you are going at. So, with manual signals, we spurted off into the traffic

Tightly I gripped the handles, speeding off to our first stop. Once out of the town, we broke free from traffic and had, for part of the ride, a smooth ride for us alone. Roads that are steady and undisturbed in these parts was a rare sight. Most of the work on these islands, without a joke, goes to maintenance. Broken roads and torn houses due to poor infrastructure, mudslides and floodings is one of the main issues in these areas. At times, entire families leave us in the dead of the night as a mudslide crashes entire homes and everything that had belonged to them. Every island carries dozens of warnings and multiple safety centres for victims of the cruel acts of nature. Everyday, workers build along the roads in attempt to fight the nature and protect the people. Therefore it was rare to us to see a road hardly being worked on and relatively experiencing a tranquil ride, even if for a short period.

At least, it was an uneventful drive until few hours in, when steering became increasingly challenging. Already nearing the end of our day with most sights visited – which is a subject I will return to – the bike began acting up. It seemed that the defectiveness of the motorbike did not only lie in the indicators as the bike pushed us to a side for which I had to overcompensate. This had began to happen on the rougher, rockier roads and I, with my scooting experience had managed to safely manoeuvre our way until we rejoiced with the even road. There, with the help of a couple of intellectuals pointing out the source, we unravelled the mystery and discovered a flat, back tire. In quite the quandary, we understood that continuing further than we already had would not be wise. Let luck be on our side, when meters away was a mechanic that would fix this situation. Him and his assistant were in quite the laugh and shock when they pulled out a worn out and on numerous spots punctured tube. This tube had been mended a many times that I lost count after the 14th patched up hole. The silver-lining, as they replaced it with a new one, was that my reckless riding most definitely had not been the reason – and could thus continue as we finished up our tour.

I choose to write about Romblon, because it is a place I love and felt welcomed. Mindoro, Tablas, they both are a must if you have time and are near! They too are absolutely wonderful islands with lots to do. If you happen to wander there as well, feel free to ask advice. Do’s and don’ts, the few details you won’t find online or simply for a more opinion-based advice.

Categories
Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A Filipino Feat of Fortitude

“Don’t worry, my love, we will have plenty of time”, had been the words that departed my arrogant smile as I calmly entered the bathroom. Cocksure that it would be the two of us on the pier with a tumble weed passing by awaiting the crowd that was to come. Alas, I was askew, as once we arrived in our carriage, known as a ‘tricycle’, all had long amassed. Accepting defeat, we passed through the check in before entering the tiny boat that was packed. I placed my bottoms on the seat that had been illuminated by sunlight. Like an over the top lit Christmas tree, I sat brightly in the sunshine. A bench of hot coals under me and a face glistening red from sweat produced by the searing hot, shining sun above. Perhaps now is a good time to apply sunscreen. Anxiety was resting on my shoulders, whispering in my ear how our bags would fall in that alluring, blue water would we place it down, as there was zero cover. Soon we would find a secure place for our luggage, however for now, we had to continue carrying the burden of the clump of fear stuck in the mind, displaying the event over and over. I have never been the same since the dive of my phone. I shook my head, as a fog of dizziness flew by. Winter, They said. It is winter.. Avoiding the sun had not been a task easy however. Thus, we awaited the commencement of the departure from El Nido to Coron as sweaty blobs, hoping the boat would turn from the sun.